Per ‘Grist:’ Behavioral science important factor in energy debate

I love, love, LOVE this article from Grist’s David Roberts. The message? Changing behavior is as important as changing technology.

This article is great because when it comes to energy efficiency, everyone focuses on which type of new technology will be the most efficient, but people rarely mention reducing energy use in the first place.

People can have a great impact by changing their behaviors and not just relying on technology to guide their behavior, plus the report Roberts discusses (originally published in Science ) outlines both how simple it can be to encourage changes in behavior and how profitable it is compared with technological advances:

How much does that same ton of CO2 abatement cost using these behavioral programs? -$165. No, that’s not a typo. It’s a negative sign. As in: $165 worth of profit per ton of carbon pollution reduced. If similar programs were expanded nationwide, Allcott and Mullainathan estimate a net value — savings minus costs — of $2,220,000,000 a year. Of course much research and testing remains to be done before it’s clear whether these programs perform equally well at scale, but as a first approximation, that’s not too shabby.

I highly suggest reading the article — the bar graph (complete with smiley faces) for utility bills, which on average leads to a 2 percent drop in energy use, really shows how simple messages can have a meaningful and positive impact on people, their behavior, and energy use as a whole.

Until humans all become robots, there are some things technology just can’t do, like teach and encourage people to change their behavior. Best not to wait for scientists to invent a robot that follows you around your house, turning off the lights and unplugging unused appliances and gadgets.


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One Response to “Per ‘Grist:’ Behavioral science important factor in energy debate”

  1. Do you cap and trade your good and bad deeds? « i, sandwich Says:

    […] 2. People recognize environmentalism as ethical. One of the interesting things that the study found is that people do associate ethics with environmentalism — people think “green” is good. I guess I found this interesting because being exposed to environmentalism influenced people to act ethically, which kind of goes along with what I said last week about how behaviorial science can influence environmentalism. […]

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